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"Not acceptable" that missing prisoner still at large

Murder suspect Michael Smith (38) was wrongly released from Maghaberry prison
Marie Louise McConville

THERE were calls last night for the PSNI to reveal what action had so far been taken in trying to locate a missing suspected murderer - a week after he mistakenly released from prison.

Michael Smith, who police said has an "extensive history of violence", was released in error from Maghaberry Prison last Tuesday.

He was last seen that day, at around 12.30pm in the Finaghy area of south Belfast.

His release came 24 hours after he was refused bail in the High Court when he applied on Monday for compassionate release to attend his son's Confirmation ceremony.

The 38-year-old, of Ardmonagh Gardens, west Belfast is one of two men charged with the shotgun murder of Stephen Carson (28) in south Belfast in February last year.

Smith is alleged to have fired the fatal shot after men broke into a house at Walmer Street.

The bail hearing was told that police believe the killing was linked to a samurai sword attack which hospitalised him in 2010.

Kieran McManus, one of the men alleged to have been involved in the sword attack, was shot dead three years later in west Belfast.

Bail was refused after a judge identified a possible risk of interfering with a key witness in the Carson case.

After he was mistakenly released Superintendent Kevin Geddes urged Smith to hand himself in while urging the public not to approach him if they came into contact with him.

However, a week on, Smith remains on the run.

When asked about the investigation yesterday, a PSNI spokeswoman said the search for Smith was continuing.

However there were calls last night for the police to reveal what action had so far been taken to try to locate him.

SDLP assembly member Pat Catney said "there are still more questions than answers".

"Why have there been no new developments? What is being done to find him? What extra resources have been allocated to his recapture? And how did this even happen in the first place?

"While it is perfectly reasonable that the PSNI do not broadcast every development and detail their exact plans in the hunt for Michael Smith, a balance needs to be stuck when the public have been told there is a violently dangerous man now at large," said the Lagan Valley representative.

"The PSNI should at least address these questions and put the public's mind at ease".

Alliance assembly member Trevor Lunn, also an MLA for Lagan Valley said it was "not acceptable" that Smith was still at large.

"It has now been over a week since Smith escaped - the PSNI need to reveal what action they have taken to locate him," he said.

"This is a suspected murderer with an extensive history of violence, so it is not acceptable he should still remain at large."

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